Thursday, 31 May 2007

A Comedy of Contacts

The most recent post on my sister's blog, appropriately (rather cleverly I thought) entitled 'Networking', is what provided the impetus for this train of thought. I won't spend time, however, clearing up the story, although that was my original idea, because as I considered with immense amusement the prospect of taking different sources and putting them together I realized something. Essentially, this was that the story didn't so much as show up the value of itself on face alone, as both my sister and I presumed, because not everyone saw the value in it as we did. And that taking the extra effort to piece together the story would either baffle most of the people involved or strike them as a ludicrously trivial waste of time.

That said some offering of the occurence from my point of view will serve as useful. I was sitting with a friend in a restaurant when she got a call from another friend of mine, one who she knows only artificially. The event essentially circles around my sister losing her phone, and although most of it seemed to have been managed by my other friend, who phoned the friend I was sitting with, the 'network' of people who were roped in to facilitate its return to its owner was amazing to us. Most of these people had only the barest connection to each other, and yet for a single afternoon they were drawn into the accomplishment of a single goal. They ranged from the secretary in the University department where I work as a tutor, to a boy in Jo'burg whose connection to my sister through my other friend was itself obscure. It involved another tutor in the English department who had studied with my other friend and who used to work as a tutor in the department where I was now working. It criss-crossed from my school best-friend's little sister to Jo'burg, to another girl who had studied with my other friend, who was also a friend of the friend sitting across from me, and who also worked as a tutor in the same department.

It is striking to me that so many people in the department where I work on campus got drawn into the task of helping my sister's phone get back to her, since she has nothing whatsoever to do with any of them, and not very much to do even with me. It is striking that it drew into contact a boy my sister was studying with (who found the phone) with a boy she was friends with in Jo'burg, striking that my friend sitting with me in a restaurant in Menlyn had cause to say my best friend's little sister's name, via a childhood nickname given to my best friend, who she will probably never meet in this lifetime.

It is striking not because of how far we have come with technology, or because the world can be so amazingly small. It is striking because my sister and I have a peculiar way of being moved by every single person that touches us in our lives, whether it reaches her only through her connection to me or vice versa. We are amazed every day that there are so many, that those people are so different, and that we all cherish them on some level in a truly personal way because, even the most random mundane incidents show how they are in some way part of us.

Friday, 25 May 2007

The Beautiful Realm

Of course our stories must be beautiful, and what follows necessarily is that our heroes must be too. The very act of this, poetry-writing, story-telling/writing, is the production of 'aesthetic'. This, I find, applies even to those explosively vulgar creations so common of our age. In fact such creations, it may be argued, deal more dishonestly than Romance with life's ugliness, taking the ugliness itself and lying with it. These creations are fond of disguising their Romance with raw, honest, meaning-making. What is more Romantic than presenting excessive filth as 'art', insisting that there is value in confronting those most bestial aspects of the human condition without shame?

My question, then, does not attend to whether or not stories are about the beautiful, for there is no question about that. The Realm of Art is perilous for precisely that reason. All is faerie within. Even the raw, gritty, supposedly honest stuff. My question is about the role of meaning in all this, now the revelation has descended. For when we extract the moral of the tale, once we have caught the abhorrent message within what we inexorably must denounce as propaganda afterward; what is the value of such art except to feel beauty, what is the function of those creations which deliberately set out to not do so, except to make us feel beauty. Feel, not see, because to be true such things can only be true to something in us, something which after all, is not spirit, but still within.

Tuesday, 08 May 2007

Of Capes and Cartoons

I recently read a book which referred to the narrative craft of comic books as 'urban fantasies'. Although no doubt a term which thinly disguises its apologetic stance (not unlike 'graphic novels'), I like it. I can attach it to a genre I have come to know and love through years of afternoon cartoon adaptations and have come to respect through a recent boom in Hollywood exploitation and hours of window shopping on the pavements of the information residential areas of Wikipedia. I can locate it in the vast multiverse of the Perilous Realm, not as it turns out, all elves and nymph-spun moors.

I loved watching Spiderman and X-men as a kid. I remember they gave me my first liberating inkling that fantasy and growing up need not be mutually exclusive. I remember the thrill of seeing magic at work not in a Romantic pseudo-medieval past or high tech imagined future, but right here, right now. I remember feeling exhilarated at the thought of those tremors collapsing the real with the wonderful.

I love the breakdown in our time between the so-called poles of High culture and Low culture. I love that they are melting and pouring into each other, so that more of fiction can be enjoyed on a more intellectual level if we choose. I love that we are truly free in the Perilous Realm.